Australia is fast becoming Bhutan’s most preferred overseas education destinations. So, the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra has put together an advisory listing relevant information and web-based resources for prospective Bhutanese students who may consider coming to Australia to pursue higher education. Please note that information may change from time to time, and you will need to contact and verify the latest updates from the relevant statutory bodies before making a final decision. Please also remember that this advisory contains standard information for international students. So, you may also receive additional information and advice on studying and living in Australia, including with your family, from Bhutanese who are already in Australia and who may be able to share their personal experiences of negotiating actual living conditions in Australia and making the best of the experience.
Before arriving in Australia
- Before committing yourself to studying in Australia, do your research.
- Find the course which is right for you based on your current conditions and future aspirations.
- Make sure that the institution offering the course has a good reputation, especially if it is a privately-run institution.
- Check that the institution and the course that you plan to take, is properly registered with the Australian government, which you can do at http://cricos.education.gov.au/, https://www.studyaustralia.gov.au/
- Carefully read the website of the institution, which should provide all the information you need to make an informed decision, such as a description of the course offered, the environment, the teaching methods, facilities, minimum English language proficiency, etc.
- Students wishing to study in Australia are advised to be fully informed of all the actual costs involved in studying in Australia, as also of the relevant rules and regulations governing work, housing and other aspects of living in Australia.
Tips for choosing the right education agent
- Once you have selected the institution of your choice, see if you can enrol with it directly. In case you want to use an agent, please check with the institution for a list of its authorised education agents. There are also a number of registered Bhutanese education agents whose services you can avail.
- Check with friends or others whom you may know who are studying or have studied in Australia.
- Check to see if the agent has completed the Education Agents Training Course:www.pieronline.org. Qualified agents will have a good knowledge of the Australian education system, visa requirements and life in Australia.
Agreement with the Education Provider/Agent
- When you have decided your course of study, you must sign a written agreement with the education provider before you pay any course money.
- The written agreement is a very important contract between you and the education provider which sets out the course you will be enrolled in; enrolment conditions; the fees you need to pay, and the refund payable if you don’t complete your course with that provider.
- Read the written agreement carefully before you sign it.
- Make sure that you understand all your rights, including the refund arrangements.
- Do obtain a copy of the written agreement and any other papers you sign.
You will need a copy of the written agreement so that you are aware of your rights. You will also need the written agreement in case you need to make a claim against the provider
Working in Australia while studying
Students are legally permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours a week while the course is in session (excluding any work undertaken as a registered component of your course of study or training). Spouses and eligible partners of married students will have similar working rights depending upon their individual visa conditions. However, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a suitable job. Further, working more than the prescribed hours may result in your student visa being cancelled.
The adult national minimum wage in Australia, as of 1 July 2021 is A$ $20.33 per hour, this changes annually; unscrupulous employers are known to pay much less under exploitative conditions. There are also cases where students, especially those enrolled in courses like hospitality or hairdressing, are working without being paid under the pretext of accumulating ‘work experience’.
In case you have any work related complaint against your employer, please approach Fair Work Ombudsman with relevant details. For more information regarding your work place rights, visit: (www.fairwork.gov.au)
There is also an acute shortage of suitable accommodation as also other shortcomings in the social support network for international students in many of the large cities in Australia and especially in Melbourne. Thus, after arriving here, many students find that they cannot make ends meet and that they have to stay in very low rent areas which often are also high crime areas with very poor facilities. They share their space with others to try and save on rentals; this often leads to over-crowding and often unhygienic and depressing living conditions. These areas are also far away from the institutions where they are enrolled.
Owing to all these factors, it is essential that students wishing to come to Australia do as much research as possible to try and ensure a wise choice of institution as also to try and understand as clearly as possible the kind of life that awaits them here, so that they enjoy a positive experience of studying and living in Australia, as indeed most Indian students do.
Visa and other advices
- Make sure you cross-check what an agent tells you with the website of the concerned institution and with the various sources of information.
- Please also write down all the promises made by the agent and get him to sign the list; this would be required in case of any dispute, and also is a confirmation that the agent is not taking you for a ride but is willing to stand by what he is offering.
- Make sure that you have adequate finances to cover the cost of living as well as your education costs. Australian regulations require one to have a minimum of A$ 18000 per year to cover basic living costs on accommodation, transport and food.
- You are legally permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours a week while the course is in session (excluding any work undertaken as a registered component of your course of study or training). Similarly, students with spouses and eligible partners will have working rights depending on their individual visa conditions. However, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get a suitable job. Further, working more than the prescribed hours may result in your visa being cancelled.
- Also make sure that you have a written agreement from the college/ institution before paying any fees; this will be essential if there is any dispute.
- The Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 alongwith its associated legislative instruments, available at the following link, www.internationaleducation.gov.au, provides the Australian regulatory framework that governs the delivery of education and training services to foreign students in Australia.
- The National Code of Practice for Registration Authorities and Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2007 (The National Code) National Code of Practice provides standards for education providers as well as state and territory regulatory authorities in Australia.
- Changes in Student Visa Regulations: The website of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) at www.immi.gov.au has comprehensive information on the rules and regulations relating to visas, including student visas. For the latest changes announced by Australian government regarding student visa visit: www.immi.gov.au
- It is your responsibility to carefully understand the relevant visa conditions so that you do not unwittingly breach them while making the best out of your Australia experience.
Students are advised to visit the above websites to familiarise themselves with:
- your legal rights as a student and all the relevant rules and regulations that apply to you;
- the standards prescribed for registered providers (university/college etc.) and education agents, so that you can check with the university/college as well as the education agents about the compliance of these standards and requirements, including student support services, including critical incident policy and complaints and appeals processes; and
- the relevant immigration rules and regulations that will govern your life as a student in Australia, including work rights and those rules that will apply to you if you choose to stay on in this country after finishing your studies to seek permanent residency.
As an international student, it is a condition of your student visa that you have Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) for the entire duration of your study in Australia. For details visit www.oshcworldcare.com.au.
Travelling to Australia.
- You may also consider insuring any valuables or expensive electronic items that you may possess.
- Import of goods in baggage: Please remember that all luggage is x-rayed or screened on arrival. You must declare all food, plant material and animal products for quarantine inspection. If you fail to declare or dispose of any quarantine items or make false declarations you will be caught. You could be fined A$ 220 on-the-spot; or you could be prosecuted and fined more than A$ 60,000 and risk 10 years in jail. You will not be penalised if goods are declared. For more details about the list of goods that need to be declared and which ones are prohibited from entry into Australia, visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/travelling
After you arrive in Australia – Settling Down
- On arrival, you should register with the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Canberra to receive timely and sympathetic consular and other supports and advice. Please click here to register with the Embassy.
- There are also registered and formal Bhutanese community associations providing welfare and other supports for Bhutanese students in all major Australian cities including Canberra, Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Armidale, Tasmania and Melbourne. You should also seek assistance and support from other Bhutanese living in Australia including your friends, family and those already known to you. These associations provide a number of cultural and social engagement programmes to maintain your community ties and help you manage feeling of isolation and alienation.
- After completing enrolment formalities, familiarise yourself with the student services offered by the institution that you have joined, such as counselling services, help in finding suitable accommodation and jobs, assistance in improving your English, etc. Remember also that Australian educational institutions provide excellent academic study and skills development services, which you must avail of for your current and future needs.
- Check out the various banks on campus and see what they offer before opening an account. Please do not keep large amounts of cash at home or on your person.
- Check out different plans before buying a mobile phone. Remember to use phone cards for international calls.
- Whatever accommodation you choose, remember it is your responsibility to maintain it and keep it clean. If you are sharing accommodation, discuss how domestic chores would be shared before committing yourself.
- Also familiarise yourself with the educational aids available to you, especially the library and online resources, keeping in mind your course structure and the evaluation methods that apply to you.
- You have many rights as a student in Australia. Learn about your rights as a student and the procedures that you should follow to exercise these rights.
- You should obtain, from the university authorities, details about the security situation in and around your university and place of stay. You should also get to know the local policing arrangements through the concerned authorities in the university.
- In your University/place of study, it would be useful for you to keep in touch not only with other Bhutanese students but also with Australian and other international students.
- Any and all complaints should be brought to the attention of appropriate authorities; at no stage, should you take or attempt to take the law into your own hands; breaking the law will invite strict legal and police action, which could include deportation.
- Remember that you are representing Bhutan in Australia. Behave appropriately at all times.
Living safely in Australia
- Keep important documents and money in a safe place.
- Make sure you keep photocopies of relevant pages in your passport and other important documents in a separate place.
- Also keep a scanned copy of important documents in your personal email.
- Try not to travel alone late at night. If you are travelling alone, make sure that you have checked out your route carefully and try and keep to well-lit, populated areas as far as possible.
- Make sure that someone knows where you are going and at what time you are expected to return.
- Don’t carry more cash with you than what is required.
- When you are travelling alone or late at night, it is advised do not make it obvious that you are in possession of expensive items, such as mobile phones, iPods or laptops.
- Always carry with you some identification as well as details of who should be contacted in an emergency.
- If in danger, dial 000 to get police help.
- In case you have a complaint, get in touch with the responsible office . You can also contact the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Canberra or concerned authorities in the Australian jurisdictions where you are located.
- If you have a genuine problem, do not hesitate to approach the police or other authorities; making a complaint will not affect your visa status.
Universal rules of behaviour which are important to remember
Always remember that you are a Bhutanese and that your behaviour will determine the image of Bhutan and Bhutanese registered by those people who interact with you. Obviously, none of you would wish to do anything detrimental to our image in the world. Therefore, it is important to always remember and abide by the following basic rules of behaviour which all of you already know but which are worth emphasizing:
- An aspect of your behaviour to which you should pay special attention is not invading another person’s privacy or personal space. Maintain some distance from the person you are talking to (at least an arm’s length).
- Do not push or shove in crowds.
- Don’t ever break a queue – this is very important!
- Do not stare openly at passers-by.
- Don’t talk so loudly that other people are disturbed.
- Don’t ask personal questions of strangers.
- Please show respect for all, irrespective of age, gender, dress or appearance.
- Be polite. Greet people with a smile and a hello or good-day or how are you; respond when other greet you the same way.
- Please always use ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ – these words will serve you well.
- Please respect other’s time and be punctual; if you are running late or cannot make an appointment, please ensure that you inform the person you are going to meet, well in time.
- Remember that certain aspects of Australian culture are different from your own. Do not make any judgements about people based on the fact that they speak, dress or behave differently from you.
Making the most of your Australian Experience
- For several of you, this may perhaps be the first time that you are away from home and in a foreign country, enjoying your first taste of independence. However, please do remember that in Australia, if you are over 18 years of age, you will be treated as an adult and held responsible for your actions and consequences.
- Remember that as a student studying in Australia, you have an opportunity to learn about Australia and other cultures. Spend time with other students from other countries and with Australian students. This is the best way of not feeling isolated and will considerably enrich your experience of studying in a foreign country.
Remember, when learning about Australian and other cultures that some people you meet may not know much about the Bhutanese culture. You should be ready to communicate with the persons you meet, about where are you from and your culture.